Sunday, April 08, 2012

This I Believe

All seniors at RMHS are required to write and then read a 3-5 minute "This I Believe" essay. Click here for more details about NPR's revival of Edward R. Murrow's 1951 call for essays. Click here for Edward R. Murrow's 1951 introduction to 'This I Believe'.

In an effort to help my class of 14 very reluctant readers and writers with this process I decided to write my own essay. I thought it would be easy. It has not been easy. Here is my first but probably not final version of my "This I Believe" essay.

Jane S. Cunningham

I believe that it is difficult to write an essay about what I believe because beliefs change. They morph like The Wonder Twins, saving the day or the hour or the minute. When they return, it might be in the form of a cheetah or a stallion or an iceberg.

I see how beliefs change as I watch my five year old's beaming face as she discovers an under-pillow note from the tooth fairy or my son's all-encompassing belief that Legos will save humanity. My 10-year-old daughter believes in the power of mystery novels as I did when I read Nancy Drew at her age.

Growing up Mormon in Salt Lake City, Utah came with many already created beliefs. No assembly required. And while I began my life with these beliefs, I have not been able to draw an invisible thread through the religious beliefs of my childhood to now.

It has been a struggle to determine what I should believe and what I can believe and what I want to believe--which is why I look to my children as guides. They are both lightning rods for issues that matter and reminders that sometimes a simple belief, though it may change later, can be just as necessary and satisfying as a complex one.

Thea, my kindergartner, carries around a pink turned grey stuffed animal whose electronic voice box stopped functioning after the twentieth spin through the washing machine. This bedraggled yet well-loved cat provides entertainment, comfort and joy beyond measure. Pink Kitty dresses up in jeweled fuchsia ball gowns and attends all kinds of parties. She sometimes has to go into time out when she misbehaves. Thea believes in the power of Pink Kitty.

When I asked eight-year-old Cole what he believes, he said without hesitation, "I believe that all people in the world are connected." And Aidan, my oldest and an animal lover said, "I believe in being nice to cats, not leaving them outside in the cold all alone."

Adults often get mired in what they are supposed to believe--as if there's a checklist that must be worked through. Some live in cliches. Children's beliefs are different and in many ways more honest than grown up beliefs.

Children believe what they want to believe.

I want to believe in unicorns. And mermaids.

I want to believe that it is vital and necessary to believe in something. Believing in something is the invisible thread that connects me to my own childhood and my own children.

For them and myself I believe in love and second chances and imagination and small acts of kindness. I believe that a scar can be a sign of bravery and healing. I believe in music making and art making--art with a little "a" not a big "A." I believe in giraffes and dust bunnies and circus peanuts (mainly because they remind me of my dad even though they taste like sawdust).

I believe that beliefs change depending on who and what and where and how--not in a flip floppy dying fish I don't believe in anything way--but with admittance that some beliefs must change as we change.

I believe that this last line is not the end of my essay. This, I believe.

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